7 A’s of Reconciliation

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Wednesday’s section of this week’s lesson reminded me about the importance of reconciliation. Reconciliation is so important to God that from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, the theme of reconciliation.

Like King David in 2 Samuel 12:1-12, we all get mad when we hear about oppression and injustice. Like King David, most of us have been guilty of oppression  and injustice at some point. When we find ourselves guilty, it is important to make confession and reconciliation, not just to get rid of our guilt and heal our conscience, but to heal the pain of those we have hurt. In Ken Sande’s book, Resolving Everyday Conflict, he shares the 7 A’s of confession and reconciliation. I would like to take a further look at them here, along with God’s Word. In so doing, I believe we can find a genuine and successful approach to healing the pain we have caused others. Please keep in mind that not all the steps need to be followed for lesser offenses. You will need to pray and let God lead you as to exactly what steps to follow.

Image © Lars Justinen Goodsalt.com

Keep in mind also that after Adam’s sin, the Garden of Eden was no longer a safe place for him. While God forgave Adam, he was never permitted back into the Garden here on earth. What a thrilling moment it will be, when in the New Earth,  Adam is reconciled to God and Adam’s Eden home is restored! Likewise there are some extreme cases of oppression and abuse, where certain relationships will only be safely reconciled and restored in the New Earth. Meanwhile what a precious blessing and responsibility it is to restore and reconcile what can be reconciled here on earth.

The 7 A’s of Confession and Reconciliation. 

  1. Address Everyone Involved. 

Sins committed only in the heart need to be confessed to God alone. Public sins need to be confessed to all those who were hurt.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16 NLT

2. Avoid Using the words, “if” “but” and “maybe.”

Say “I hurt you.” Not, “If I hurt you.” Say “I was wrong.” Not, “I was wrong but so were you.” Say, “I know I made a mistake.” Not “Maybe I made a mistake.” Don’t shift, minimize or excuse your guilt.

People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13 NLT

3. Admit Specifically Where you were wrong. 

Don’t be vague.

Forgive me for shedding blood…Psalm 51:14 NLT

4. Acknowledge the Hurt.

You can even ask, “Do I understand how much I’ve hurt you?”

When Saul sinned, the throne was taken from him, because he was only sorry about what his sin had cost him personally. David sinned an even greater sin, but kept the throne, because He was truly sorry about what his sin had cost God.

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; Psalm 51:4 NLT

5. Accept the Consequences.

Genuine repentance accepts any due penalties.

Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Luke 19:8 NLT

6. Alter Your Behavior.

You are not really sorry if you keep willfully repeating the same offense. Ask people to hold you accountable.  You may even put your plan for change into writing. One of the reasons I am writing about this topic is to reinforce it in my own mind.

If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Ephesians 4:28 NLT

7. Ask for Forgiveness (and allow time)

If it took you a while to confess, it may take a while for the other person to forgive. Don’t push it or rush it. If you are sincere and genuine in these 7 steps, most people will be quick to forgive.

Often when we try to place the blame on others, they will turn around and place the blame on us. On the other hand, when we accept full responsibility for our actions, others will often accept responsibility for their actions.

I have attempted to simplify and paraphrase the ideas in Ken Sande’s book, to reinforce them for myself and to help others to make reconciliation. When we find ourselves being oppressed or treated unjustly it is easy to just run away or attack back. When mankind rebelled against God, God neither ran away or attacked back. Instead He presented Himself as the peace offering for our offense!  Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 deals mainly with God’s attempt at reconciliation. This tells me reconciliation is very important.

It may seem hard to make confession and reconciliation. It may seem easier to run away. It may cost us our pride to make reconciliation, but that is a small price considering it cost God His dear Son. If reconciliation is worth God’s Son, then it is definitely worth anything it would cost us.

Which Laws Were Abolished at the Cross?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Were the ceremonial or moral laws done away with at the cross? What exactly did Christ abolish on the cross? Let’s take a look at God’s Word to see.

The ten commandments were written with God’s own hand.

So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. Deuteronomy 4:13 NKJV

The ten commandments were placed inside the ark.

And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you. Exodus 25:16 NKJV

The commandments last forever.

The works of His hands are verity and justice;
All His precepts are sure.  They stand fast forever and ever,
And are done in truth and uprightness. Psalm 111:7-8 NKJV

The ceremonial law was written in Moses’ handwriting and was placed in the side of the ark while we have seen the Ten Commandments were written by God and placed inside the ark.

So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished,  that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying: Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you;  Deuteronomy 31:24-26 NKJV

The ceremonial laws written by Moses lasted only until the reformation.

concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. Hebrews 9:10 NKJV

It was ordinances that were handwritten by Moses that were done away with at the cross. The ceremonial laws like the feast Sabbath days like the Passover, which pointed towards the cross no longer served a purpose after the cross. The weekly Sabbath in the ten commandments was instituted before the law was ever given (Genesis 2:1-3) and continued throughout the New Testament by Jews and Greeks alike (Acts 18:4) and will continue in the new earth. (Isaiah 66:23)

having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Colossians 2:14-17 NKJV

Note: the requirements that were against them was the record of their rebellion we saw in Deuteronomy 31:24-26. The Ten commandments were not against them. They were there for their blessing and protection. See Psalm 19 and 119.

The sacrificial system ceased at the cross. The ten commandments never ceased.

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.” Daniel 9:27 NKJV

In the new testament commandment keeping continues.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. John 15:9-10 NKJV

He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  1 John 2:4 NKJV

The ten commandments convict us of sin after the cross just like before.

but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.  For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.  So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. James 2:9-12 NKJV

Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4NKJV

Jesus did not die to do away with the law. He died so we could be obedient and live righteously.

who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,  teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, Titus 2:11-12 NKJV

Those who keep the commandments by God’s grace will inherit eternal life.

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:14 NKJV

Summary and conclusion: The handwritten ordinances and sacrificial systems that pointed towards the cross were no longer needed after the cross. The Ten commandments were not handwritten by Moses but by God and do not point towards the cross. The ten commandments endure for all eternity.

Why Kindergarten is a Part of Your College Degree

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The podcast version of this article is available here.

As this week’s lesson emphasizes the importance of the law in our education I am reminded of what Jesus said regarding the principle of the entire law.

Do to others as you would like them to do to you. Luke 6:31 NLT

Many are familiar with the phrase, ‘All I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.” This phrase came from Robert Fulghum’s book, with the same title as the phrase. The main idea is that in kindergarten one learns simple hygiene practices as well as the importance of a nap every afternoon.  Sounds great, right? Fulghum goes on to explain how kindergarten taught him not to take things that did not belong to him and how to share what he had. In short, kindergarten taught him to be fair and considerate of others needs and rights. Of course since the book came out, kindergarten has progressed to be more like first grade when I was starting school way back in the mid 1900’s. Still, kindergarten teaches  basic citizenship skills about how to get along with others. How to be responsible in cleaning up your own mess as well as being considerate and helpful to others. I believe Jesus would sum all these kindergarten lessons up with “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”

After kindergarten many of us went on to “greater” things. We learned algebra and geometry.  Some of us went on to learn calculous (well I surely didn’t but some of us did.) We learned science and chemistry and biology. Yet in all of our learning we were never to forget what we learned in kindergarten. While doing algebra and geometry it is still important o know that 1+1=2. Yes we go on to much greater things than we could ever have imagined in kindergarten but we must never forget 1+1=2. When a math major receives her college degree certificate at Harvard, what she learned in kindergarten about 1+1=2 is a substance and the foundation of the degree that she now proudly hangs on her office wall.

Do you know what else is a substance of our greater education? the things we learned in kindergarten about treating others fairly and honestly. Doing for others what we would want them to do for us. Jesus told us this is the foundation of the law. Therefore if the law is the foundation of our education then doing for others what we would want them to do for us must be the foundation of our education. No matter how far you go in math 1+1 will always equal 2. That fundamental law will always stay with you. No matter how far you go in life climbing the corporate ladder “do for others what you would like them to do for you” will always be a fundamental law in your education and career.

When you walk off the platform at Andrews University or Avondale or Newbold, or any other university with your college degree you do not get to throw away your kindergarten education. Your kindergarten education is a fundamental part of your college education. It doesn’t go away. If you ever forget that 1+1=2 your math degree will become useless. If you ever forget to treat others the way you would want to be treated then your entire education becomes meaningless.

The law is the foundation of our education. Do for others what you would like them to do for you is the foundation of the law. Therefore do for others what you would like them to do for you is the foundation of education.

I can’t really say all I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten, but I can honestly say I will always need all I learned in kindergarten.

Obedience is the Only Acceptable Expression of Respect

I am writing tonight from my beautiful hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.  On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

When I tell one of my students at school to clean the dry erase board he does not come up to me several minutes later saying, “I memorized what you told me to do.” Memorizing is not the goal. Obedience is the goal. This is why I find this week’s Sabbath School lesson so crucial as it stresses the importance of not only understanding or even memorizing the Bible but actually doing what it says. I know people who show great respect for the Bible by not placing anything on top of it or by not setting it on the ground, treating it much the way we do our nation’s flag. This is commendable, but I believe and I’m sure you do too, that the greatest way to show respect for God’s Word is to do what it says. Otherwise not stacking things on top of the Bible or not letting it touch the ground is meaningless if we are not doing what it says. After all what traitor could stand before a judge and say, “Sure I traded military secrets to the enemy but I never let the flag touch the ground.” Treating the flag with respect is meaningless if we are betraying the nation it represents.

Today when writing even a pronoun for God like “He” and “Him” we capitalize the pronouns referring to God out of respect. However you may have already noticed that in the Bible the pronouns for God are not capitalized. What gives? Did the Bible translators have no respect for God and His holiness? No, they had great respect for God, but they realized that the best way to show respect for God is to do what He says, and not just simply write His name with capital letters. After all, writing pronouns referring to God with capital letters is quite hallow if we are not exhibiting the greatest form of respect which is obedience. 

After all, nowhere in Scripture does it tell us not stack anything on top of the Bible or make sure we write pronouns referring to God with capital letters. Nowhere in Scripture are we told the importance of merely memorizing Scripture if we are not prepared to actually  do what it says. In Luke 10 a lawyer engages Jesus in a theological discussion regarding the law and salvation. Jesus commends the lawyer for his theory on theology. But even as Jesus commends his theory as being theologically correct He also lets him know more than head knowledge and theory is required. 

Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” Luke 10:28 NLT 

Jesus was not satisfied with theological head knowledge. Jesus wanted the lawyer to do what the law says. Jesus then illustrates His point with the story of the good Samaritan, who practiced loving his neighbor. The Samaritan was doing in the story what the lawyer was only talking about. At the end of the story Jesus reiterates the importance of doing what the law says instead of just studying and memorizing the law. 

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” Luke 10:37 NLT 

A few years ago I was a part of a discussion where someone was saying that we don’t need to obey the health and temperance principles in the Bible. We only need to call upon the name of the Lord and we will be saved. He referenced Romans 10:13. I agreed that Romans 10:13 does indeed say those who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved, but we can’t call Jesus “Lord” if we are not obeying Him. Matthew 7:21-23 makes it clear that we are calling on the name of the Lord in vain if we are not obeying His laws. After all obedience is the result of salvation. 

 Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. Philippians 2:12 NLT 

When Jesus was at the wedding party with His mother, and they ran out of wine, His mother told the servants something extremely simple but equally  profound.

“Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5 NLT 

Many years ago I was the guest speaker at a church where a family had just lost a child. The pastor explained to me that they would take up an offering for the family to help with funeral expenses and assured me they would still take up the customary offering to cover my expenses traveling to their church. When the plea was made for the family’s offering someone testified how poor the family was. I perceived the Holy Spirit nudging me to tell the pastor sitting on the platform with me to collect all of the money for the family  and not to take up an offering for me. I sat there a few moments considering what I felt the Holy Spirit telling me. Did I have the money to pay for this trip myself? Then I perceived the Holy Spirit speaking to my conscience again, “What is there to think about or consider? I just told you what to do!” I then leaned over and whispered in the pastor’s ear to forget about my offering and give it all to the family. I never missed the money I would have received that day. More importantly I did what I knew God was telling me to do. 

It was not enough for me to know what God was telling me to do. It was not enough for me to memorize what God was telling me to do. The minimum God was requiring of me was to actually do what He was telling me to do. So it is with studying God’s Word. It is not enough to study. It is not enough to understand. It is not enough to memorize. We must obey the Word of God.